2015 Audi A3 1.8T First Test
Taking It Seriously
While people interested in the entry-level luxury class are all over cars like the Mercedes-Benz CLA, it's easy to forget that the segment existed long before Mercedes introduced its swoopy new four-door to the U.S. Audi was actually one of the first to enter the segment, way back in 2006 with the A3. The original A3 failed to leave its mark, though. It was a four-door hatchback, and because it was a four-door hatchback, Americans generally weren't that interested. The all-new 2015 Audi A3 sedan likely won't have that problem. With the entry-lux segment more important than ever, the 2015 Audi A3 1.8T proves that Audi's taking the segment seriously.
Let's get what you came here for out of the way: Powered by VW Group's new 1.8-liter turbocharged I-4, the front-drive-only 2015 A3 1.8T makes 170 hp and 200 lb-ft of torque, which it puts to the ground through a six-speed dual-clutch automatic. Accelerating from 0-60 mph in the A3 1.8T takes 6.8 seconds, and the base A3 is through the quarter mile in 15.4 seconds at 89.4 mph. In comparison, the A3 2.0T Quattro launches quicker thanks to its 220-hp 2.0-liter turbo-4 and standard all-wheel-drive system, needing 5.4 seconds to hit 60 mph and 14.0 seconds to finish the quarter mile, with a 98.6 mph trap speed. The lighter A3 1.8T (at 3108 pounds it weighs 522 pounds, or about 4724 chicken eggs less than the 2.0T) brakes from 60 mph in two feet less than the 2.0T at 106 feet, and pulls an 0.89 g average on the skidpad. The 2015 A3 1.8T completes our figure eight in 26.7 seconds at 0.67 g, compared to the A3 2.0T's 25.6 second at 0.71 g average run.
Though the A3 2.0T sports better performance numbers than the 1.8T, I think the A3 1.8T is the one to have if all-wheel drive isn't on your must-have list. The A3 1.8T doesn't feel noticeably slower while driving and its gearing feels shorter, making it feel perky around town. The 1.8T-equipped A3 also has lighter, more communicative steering than the 2.0T, which makes it much more fun on back roads, especially considering the A3 2.0T seems to have a bit of trouble transitioning quickly left to right (and vice-versa) on quick switchbacks.
Among the biggest changes to the 2015 A3 is the way it looks: the Americanized A3 now sports a traditional sedan body style, and for better or worse it looks like a three-quarters-sized A4. Parking the A3 next to an A8 gives an interesting look at how scalable Audi's design language is. While the A3 is certainly handsome, I can't help but feel like it's almost too conservative for the young millennial buyers Audi is targeting. Park the A3 next to Mercedes' CLA and I bet you the majority of passersby younger than 30 would choose the CLA over the A3 on looks alone.
My completely unscientific (and I can't even begin to express how unscientific) Twitter poll seems to confirm that. Of the 44 users younger than 30 who responded, 24 of them liked the Mercedes more than the Audi. As for the 21 people surveyed in the over 30 crowd, 12 preferred the looks of the Audi over the Merc. My point? The Audi very well may drive better, but this is the market that's been buying Camrys and Corollas – they, frankly speaking, might not know a good car if it hit them. Until the A3 Cabrio and Hatch hit our shores, I wouldn't be surprised to see the CLA out-performing the A3 in sales.
Inside, the 2015 Audi A3 makes up ground compared to Mercedes. Though some members on staff are quick to call the A3's interior cheap, I think minimalistic is the right word. The Audi's interior is simple, looks nice, and is intuitively laid out. The latest version of MMI (which Audi says is currently more advanced than the version in the A8) is fantastic. Though our tester didn't come with the top-spec MMI Navigation Plus pack, I had a chance to sample it in a different A3 during the launch and it's killer. The Google Maps-based navigation system renders quickly, the Siri-like voice control is better than Siri, and its chock full of why-didn't-they-think-of-that-sooner features like picture destination, which uses GPS data saved on a photo you take with your smartphone to navigate the car to that exact destination. Trying to track down a lost friend? Have them text you a picture of where they are, import it into the A3's MMI system, and off you go.
While the 2015 Audi A3's bells and whistles are killer, there are a handful of issues with the interior – tire noise being chief among them. The A3 is already relatively heavy, an extra 10 or 20 pounds (just 171 eggs!) would make a big difference. Other complaints: the A3's blind spots are massive (as one editor found out the hard way), and our tester's center stack featured five blank switches. What Audi owner wants to be reminded of options they didn't spring for?
Even with the blanks, our A3 test car didn't leave us wanting for anything. With a base price of $30,795, the A3 is pretty well-equipped. The neat flip-out screen in center stack is standard, as are leather seats, HID headlights with LED running lamps, automatic wipers, and a plus-sized "panoramic" sunroof. Audi offers three trims on the A3: Premium, Premium Plus, and Prestige. Our A3 1.8T Premium tester came equipped with the $450 Aluminum Inlay package, the $1900 MMI Navigation pack, the $500 cold weather pack, and the $350 iPod integration option, totaling a not totally unreasonable $34,545.
Audi expects big things from the new A3. With the 2015 Audi A3 1.8T projected to be the volume-seller, the automaker has a solid platform by which to take the segment over. And there are more coming as it looks to cover all the bases. By early next year, the 2015 Audi A3 sedan will be joined by a hatchback and convertible, as well as the A3 TDI, A3 E-Tron PHEV, and the 295-hp high-zoot S3. So is Audi taking the segment seriously? If the A3 1.8T and the heavy artillery soon bound for our shores are any indication, then yeah, you can say that.
|2015 Audi A3 1.8T|
|PRICE AS TESTED||$34,545|
|VEHICLE LAYOUT||Front-engine, FWD, 5-pass, 4-door sedan|
|ENGINE||1.8L/170-hp/200-lb-ft turbo DOHC 16-valve I-4|
|TRANSMISSION||6-speed twin-clutch auto.|
|CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST)||3108 lb (60/40%)|
|LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT||175.4 x 77.2 x 55.7 in|
|0-60 MPH||6.8 sec|
|QUARTER MILE||15.4 sec @ 89.4 mph|
|BRAKING, 60-0 MPH||106 ft|
|LATERAL ACCELERATION||0.88 g (avg)|
|MT FIGURE EIGHT||26.7 sec @ 0.67 g (avg)|
|EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON||23/33/27 mpg|
|ENERGY CONS., CITY/HWY||147/102 kW-hrs/100 miles|
|CO2 EMISSIONS||0.73 lb/mile|